Rating: Not Rated
Stephen Collins as Jake Cutter
Jeff MacKay as Corky
Leo the Dog as Jack
Caitlin O’Heaney as Sarah Stickney White
Roddy McDowall as Bon Chance Louie
Les Jankey as Gushie the Waiter
John Calvin as Reverend Willie Tenboom
Marta DuBois as Princess Koji
John Fujioka as Todo
Original Double Length Pilot Episode
Brand New 36 Minute “Making Of” Documentary with Stephen Collins (Jake Cutter), Caitlin O’Heaney (Sarah Stickney White), Tom Greene – Writer/Producer and Harvey Laidman – Director
Audio Commentary on 5 Episodes
Caitlin’s Original Costume Gallery
24 Page Collector’s Booklet
Running Time: 1008 Minutes
The following is the official description of the series:
“Action, adventure, international intrigue, and exotic ambiance combine in ‘Tales of the Gold Monkey.’ This 22-hour long series is set in a backwater corner of the South Pacific a young American adventurer, Jake Cutter, and his ragtag group of friends become involved in death-defying hi-jinx, transporting people-on-the-run in a well-worn Grumman Goose seaplane. Broadcast by ABC in early ’80s, the series became a massive hit following in the wake of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark.’ Set in 1938, this series captures the ambiance and character of a mysterious romantic era.”
“Tales of the Gold Monkey: The Complete Series” is not rated.
I used to love watching “Tales of the Gold Monkey” when I was a kid back in 1982. Being a huge fan of Indiana Jones, this was the next best thing to watch while waiting for “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” Many people, myself included, have accused “Tales of the Gold Monkey” of being an Indiana Jones rip off. After all, he had a trademark hat, it was set in the same time period, he fought Nazis, and there were rare artifacts. How could you NOT compare Jake to Indy? But as Stephen Collins explains in the bonus features, the show was created a year or two before “Raiders of the Lost Ark” hit theaters. It was only after that show became popular did ABC go back and approve the pilot. ABC also pushed a reluctant creator/producer Don Bellisario into making it MORE like Indiana Jones, much to his chagrin.
The show was very popular, then mysteriously not renewed for a second season. They explained in the bonus features that the frequent head butting between ABC and Don Bellisario caused the studio to dump the popular show altogether, an extremely unusual move. “Tales of the Gold Monkey” was not heard from again until now.
In many respects the show has not aged well. Jake carrying on verbal fights with his dog are a bit hokey (though I see why my 9-year-old self enjoyed it). Some of the makeup effects are cheesy, especially with the monkeys in the first episode. You could also pick apart the acting and repeated use of stock footage of the plane flying. But the show does a lot right, too. It has a great setting. Pre-WWII South Pacific is a fantastic location with a lot of colorful villains all converging on one spot. The use the both Nazis and Japanese soldiers was a good combination. And by making it a period show set in 1938, the sets and costumes don’t look like they’re from 1982. In fact, the sets were surprisingly elaborate. From the huge jungle set to the elaborate Monkey Bar set, they would stand up to any show on TV today. Making Jake a pilot of an amphibious plane also allows the main characters to go to many different locations with many different adventures. That helped keep the show from going stale over its short run.
The cast was also good. Stephen Collins was great as Jake Cutter. He was handsome, cocky, and not overly tough. The dog Jack was, in a sense, his Chewbacca and their plane was akin to the Millennium Falcon. Collins admits in the bonus features that he purposely did not watch Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones so that he would not subconsciously mimic his performance. But he did a good enough job on his own. Caitlin O’Heaney was an interesting choice as Sarah Stickney White. They say in the bonus features that her look and performance were meant to evoke the actresses from the 1930’s, and I certainly see that now. Jeff MacKay also made a good sidekick as Corky, but Roddy McDowall was probably the most recognizable cast member as Bon Chance Louie. Then there was Marta DuBois who was essentially in yellowface as Princess Koji and character actor John Fujioka as Todo. There was also a notable guest appearance by John Hillerman (“Magnum P.I.”) as a Nazi.
If you enjoyed this series when it first aired like I did, then this is a DVD you’ll want to add to your collection. If you like pulp adventures, serials, or even Indiana Jones, then you’re a prime candidate to enjoy this as well.
The bonus features are a little light, but this is to be expected. There’s a good 36 minute featurette on the making of the series. Collins talks about his near death experiences on the set, the original creation of the series, the training of the dog, and other interesting stuff. You also learn he met his future wife (Faye Grant from “V”) on the series when she had a guest appearance. It’s a great look back for fans of the show. Also included are some episode commentaries, stills galleries, and other text based bonus features.